AboutThe Jews of the Homonna District
by Dr. Isador Goldberger
Like the farmer, watching the gathering clouds on the horizon and worrying about the possible ruin of his cattle or crop, such must have been the feelings of Zemplen county Jews in past centuries as Jewish regulations have reached them from the royal governor's council.
Letters and documents of those times show largely peaceful contacts of the Zemplen jewry with the authorities, the landowners and the bulk of the common people. Taheir secure economic position was, however, periodically shaken, like by sudden storms, by restrictive regulations. Such were, for instance the rules on the ownership of vineyards or the wine trade. Such was also the regular census of the Jews whose avowed purpose was to restrict the growth of the Jewish population in the county.
As an example, consider the following excerpt from the council's protocol.
"On April 17 of the year 1807, Item # 322/6686 of the agenda. In the matter of the petition by the Jews Jakab Kremer, Pinkes Deitsh and Hershko Cinner, who have bought 150 barrels of wine in the town of Miskolc to be granted ownership of said merchandise. This brazen request is in direct contradiction with county ordinances concerning wines, as confirmed by His Gracious Majesty's most gracious approval. Petition is, therefore, refused and applicants are directed never again to attempt such underhanded scheming."
"Item # 323. In this connection, it was also reported to the council that this Jewish Nation has gradually extended itself over all parts of the county and, with the exception of a few, is utilizing clever schemes to cause the ruin of the paying people. Hence, the council issues herewith their warning to them to cease their nefarious activities lest laws be brought to coerce them."
"Toward this purpose, the council of His Excellency the Governor hereby has issued orders to district judges that Jews, whose livelihood is inadequate or who have taken up residence in this county since the year of 1730 and without any permit for residence be instructed to leave their homes. All district judges are instructed to investigate such disagreements with prior census data. Such instances are to be investigated by the district judges under the chairmanship of Adam Szirmay, chief district judge. Jews whose status is to be investigated must appear in person before said panel."
If we read the above council ordinance with care, we must realize that its main purpose was the eduction of the number of Jews in the county. Hence, it is no surprise that, even though districts like Homonna were important Jewish centers even a hundred years ago, nonetheless, I could compile only 8 family trees from census data. One would think that the investigative panel has been successful in reducing the number of Jews in Homonna. Indeed, the census lists only three heads of household in Homonna. It is, therefore, surprising that there is also listed a Rabbi who has, apparently, been performing his duties there for quite a long time. It is inconceivable that he could have done so while supported by such a miniscule number of Jews.
The census document is titled: "The conscription of Jews in the District of Homonna in the Year of 1807." It's author is given as Waserman, Abraham. He indicates in the census thathe is a Jewish day-school teacher, has one son and three daughters, was born in Varenden, Szatmar County, is 42 years old and earns his living solely with his office. The 3 heads of household are listed as Jozef Proper, Isak Simonovits and Abraham Proper. The handwriting of the document is neat and quite legible.
Other Documents Concerning the Jewry of Homonna
(from the Hungarian Jewish Archives, Fulop Grunwald and Sandor Schreiber.)
Homonna, January 2, 1647
"Mate Gorgey, a resident of Homonna, certifies herewith that he has brought, upon the instructions of his superiors Messrs. Janos Jakosits and Miklos Pazmany from Poland certain sable furs as well as some spices, with the help of the Jew Israel. He wants judgment to recover the said goods from one Andras Szikszay so as not to face retaliation from the Poles."
Kassa, March 31, 1683
"The Judicial Chamber of Szepes County instructs the Jews resident in the neighborhood of Ungvar and Homonna to send their representative to negotiate their customary taxes and also to demonstrate their patent, granted to them by the Count Thokoly, otherwise they will not be permitted to trade freely."
Homonna, December 31, 1684
"Janos Munkacsi reports to the judicial chamber of Szepes County on the subject of the Jews' census report to be presented: only one Jewish peddler resides in Homonna permanently, the other Jews come to town only at grape harvest time to buy wine. Wines in the residences of the Jews are impounded on way by armed mercenaries ("labanc" = Landsknecht) who relinquish them only upon payment of several sums of money and only after many difficulties. They (the Jews) dare to transport their wines less and less frequently. He requests instructions from the Noble Chamber as to what to do."
Homonna, May 30, 1705
"The Prince instructs one Lukas Keresztes that all Jews wanting to transport wine should direct such to their co-religionist, one Michaly Roth."
Homonna, May 22, 1702
"The Judicial Chamber of Szepes acknowledges the receipt of Fr. 300 from Josef Szalamovics, peddler, from Homonna."